Nike’s Dream Crazy … bold, human and thoughtful … was the best advertising campaign of the decade, not just of the year

December 27, 2018

Nike’s Dream Crazy campaign could be the best of the decade, let alone the last year. Their decision to use Colin Kaepernick was one of the boldest made in marketing in a long, long time and the brand was rewarded accordingly. The black and white close up of his face was shared around the world, and made news headlines in almost every country.

Columnists and analysts picked the campaign apart from every conceivable angle, looking for clues in Nike’s share price (which hit an all-time high in the ad’s wake), in its online sales results and in social media interactions. But this wasn’t about short- term metrics, it was about brand building.

Nike and its agency, Wieden+Kennedy , made the ad so that everyone who saw it would know that the company stood for something, and it couldn’t have been done more clearly or more emphatically.

In the short film version of the ‘Dream Crazy’ ad not only does Colin Kaepernick, the former 49ers and University of Nevada star, narrate the latest ‘Just Do It’ spot, he makes an appearance as he continues his theme of sacrificing everything for what you believe.

Nike stated on its news website that, to celebrate the rich diversity embedded within its signature tagline, the second film in the series, ‘Dream Crazy,’ focuses on a collection of stories that represent athletes who are household names and those who the company feels should be. The common denominator is that all the athletes represented in the film leverage the power of sport to move the world forward.

Along with inspirational professionals, like LeBron James, Serena Williams, Odell Beckham Jr., Eliud Kipchoge, the two-minute film focuses on incredible athletes, including: 29-year-old basketball phenom and wheelchair athlete Megan Blunk, who took gold in Rio in 2016; Isaiah Bird, who was born without legs, and at 10-years-old has become a force on his wrestling team; Charlie Jabaley, an Ironman who made over his life by dropping 120 pounds, going vegan, and in the process, reversing the growth of a life-long brain tumor; and Michigander Alicia Woollcott, who played linebacker and was named homecoming queen during her high school senior season.

“It is an exercise in restraint in an industry that all too often chases innovation over insight,” noted Ari Weiss, DDB North America’s chief creative officer. “It created the single largest brand lead conversation of the year by speaking in a voice that Nike has been speaking in for 30-plus years.”

“It’s the most human idea of the year, maybe of the last 10 years,” added Marie Rockett, vp and group creative director at Allen & Gerritsen. “The best part was watching much of the social universe say ‘this will ruin Nike,’ then just as sneakers burned all over the internet, Nike’s stock rose over 6 percent, online sales grew over 30 percent, and engagement with the brand rose to record levels. Like all great advertising, it changed behavior, made people think, and sold more stuff. It showed us that doing the right thing can be the perfect thing for a brand.”

Here are some of the best brand campaigns of 2018:

Lacoste … Save Our Species

Lacoste did exactly what the Marketing 101 handbook tells you not to: it got rid of its most distinctive asset. Working with BETC Paris, the sportswear brand removed its crocodile logo from a limited edition run of polo tops and replaced it with endangered animals. The risk paid off. By sacrificing its icon in favour of lesser- known creatures, Lacoste turned a simple CSR effort into an authentic and hugely PR-able campaign.

As well as being shared 600,000 times, generating 1.2 million impressions and €9.9m ($11.6m) of earned media, 76% of online sales were to new customers. Oh, and all 1,775 of the shirts sold out within 24 hours. The fascinating thing about this campaign is that it raised the profile of the Lacoste logo by getting rid of it completely. ‘The brief from the client was more about the icon,’ Bertille Toledano, co-president at BETC Paris, told us in an interview. ‘They wanted us to find a way to talk more about the crocodile.’

Ikea … Pee-ad

Not many people knew of Ikea’s Family Program and so the Swedish retailer decided to rectify the situation by turning one of its print ads into a pregnancy test. All a person had to do was pee on the strip at the bottom of the page and if they were pregnant, the lucky new parents saw a discounted price for the crib in the ad instead of the usual blue lines.

The campaign was created with Åkestam Holst, Stockholm, which has been doing consistently sterling work for the brand in its home country over the past couple of years. Upon release, the Pee-Ad received mixed reviews, ranging from ‘genius’ to ‘ew’. But what the ad so effectively does is reinforce Ikea’s strapline, ‘Where Life Happens,’ while breathing new life into a traditional print advert. It also succeeded where so many other campaigns fail and provoked a reaction from people – even if it was ‘ew’.

Domino’s … Paving for Pizza

Domino’s ‘Oh yes we did’ mantra is about the ridiculous lengths to which the business will go in its relentless pursuit of perfect pizza. In the past it has done things like broadcast customer feedback (even the bad stuff) in Times Square to prove its point, but in 2018 the brand surpassed itself, giving money to municipalities in the US to fix potholes so that pizzas being driven home by takeaway customers would not suffer a bumpy ride.

To make sure everyone knew Domino’s was doing its civic duty, the pizza chain even stamped its mantra on the fresh tarmac. Does this campaign have anything to say about brands’ role in the public sphere? Probably not. It wasn’t the agency’s (Crispin Porter + Bogusky, Boulder) intention at any rate. Was it a fantastic idea that cut through the clutter to earn an ungodly amount of attention? Oh yes it was.

Nike … Juntas Imparables

Nike invited women in Mexico to form teams of four and track their exercise through the brand’s training apps. Each squad member could do a different sport or exercise, as long as she logged her minutes in the app to measure the group’s overall efforts. As part of the Juntas Imparables (Unstoppable Together) challenge, each team was added to a WhatsApp chat group, connecting them to a Nike representative who coached them throughout.

The group that logged the most minutes over the six weeks won a year’s Nike sponsorship. The campaign weaponised Nike’s audience to recruit new app users or customers. The brand only had to motivate one fan to sign up to the challenge, then that person could take care of getting three of her friends on board. The brand also worked with Wieden+Kennedy Portland to produce
a kickass film to promote the campaign.

Stabilo Boss … Highlighting the Remarkable

All good adverts tell a story but Stabilo Boss’ Highlighting the Remarkable campaign is great because it has a little story of its own. The print campaign, which used luminous ink to pick out the overlooked women in historical pictures, was largely ignored when it was released in Germany in April.

But after winning Gold and Silver Lions at Cannes it was posted to Twitter where it found its audience, amassing 10 million impressions in a few days. As result, the campaign’s run was extended in Germany throughout the summer. The (delayed) adulation was deserved. DDB Düsseldorf’s ads not only showed that brands could talk about gender equality without seeming shallow, they did it in a way that made it impossible to separate the idea from the product. A real advertising fairy tale.

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